• 23rd February, 2002 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Departed: 07:15 returned at approx. 17:15.

    Sea conditions: NE to 0.5m at first and to 1.0m NE during the day.
    Swell: SE 1.5 to 2m.
    Weather: Mostly overcast in the morning but clearing to a sunny afternoon.
    Temperature range: 23.5 to 24.3C.
    Barometric pressure: 1020 HPa rising.
    Wind: E 5kts at first, rising to NE 10 kts at times during the day.
    Sea surface temperature: 23.5 to 26.1C.
    Primary chumming locations: S 34 27' - E 151 16', 34 31' - 151 24'.

    Summary:

    It was a perfect day for a late-summer pelagic trip with a high cloud cover and pleasant sunshine in the afternoon. With light northeasterly breezes and warm water, expectations of visitors (birds and cetaceans) from the tropics were running high.

    The calm seas provided early views of Little Penguin just outside the breakwater. Seabirds were present in reasonable numbers immediately and it remained this way all day. Wollongong Pelagic regulars were thrilled to see 2 CASPIAN TERNS because, although the species breeds in the area at Lake Illawarra, there has been only one prior record at sea. In addition to the excitement of the CASPIAN TERNS, an interesting assortment of shearwater species was present with six species being identified within the first hour.

    The trend for very low numbers of Arctic Jaegers this season continued with just a couple early in the trip and another two on the way home. By contrast, Pomarine Jaegers were more abundant than on recent trips, being present in good numbers over the Continental Shelf. A juvenile LONG-TAILED JAEGER followed the boat for a while near the 50-fathom line. This species of Jaeger has been scarce this season also and, additionally, this encounter was unusually close to land. A group of Short-beaked Common Dolphins were unusually elusive and ignored the opportunity to ride our bow wave.

    Just over the 100-fathom line we encountered a group of Pygmy Killer Whales but no real change in the birds present around the boat. Stopping to chum at the 200-fathom line brought promising numbers of Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters to the boat but no Petrels. Consequently, after an hour we elected to head further east into deeper water. During this leg of the cruise an adult RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD approached the boat from the stern and flew overhead at low altitude giving all on board fantastic views. At about the same time the first Great-winged Petrel of the day was sighted. At the 400-fathom line a TAHITI PETREL was sighted, which flew a circle around the boat at a radius of about 50m giving good views in the calm conditions. Another chumming session at this location brought in a second adult RED-TAILED TROPIBIRD.

    Petrel numbers remained very low so we decided to head into even deeper water in search of them. Stopping in over 800 fathoms of water we berleyed once again and succeeded in attracting a BLACK PETREL to the boat and another TAHITI PETREL which passed close by but was seen by only a few. Despite being captured, photographed and banded the BLACK PETREL appeared several more times behind the boat on the return leg, being in view for nearly an hour close behind the boat. Also on the return leg of the voyage we encountered a group of Risso's Dolphins at the 100-fathom line. In addition to the BLACK PETREL, the SOSSA banding team captured and released 2 Pomarine Jaegers and over 130 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, including a bird that had been banded previously on Big Island (Port Kembla) in 1991. Highlights: Two CASPIAN TERNS a new Wollongong Pelagic species for almost all on board!. and of course two TAHITI PETRELS, a BLACK PETREL and two RED-TAILED TROPICBIRDS.

    Several marlin and a variety of Cetaceans provided additional interest.Several marlin and a variety of Cetaceans provided additional interest.


    Birds recorded according to the latest Environment Australia Reporting
    Schedule:
    Species code: Species name: Numbers:
    (Note: numbers in parenthesis = highest count at any one time)

    005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 2 (1)
    073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 2 (1)
    920 TAHITI PETREL Pseudobulweria rostrata 2 (1)
    917 BLACK PETREL Procellaria parkinsoni1
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 5 (1)
    913 Hutton's Shearwater P. huttoni 3 (1)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 400+ (200+)
    070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 3 (1)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 12 (5)
    072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 100+ (40+)
    107 RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD, Phaethon rubricauda 2 (1)
    104 Australasian Gannet, Morus serrator 2 (1)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (1)
    128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 4(2)
    945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 125+ (50+)
    933 LONG-TAILED JAEGER, S. longicauda 1
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 3 (2)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 45 (30)
    111 CASPIAN TERN Sterna caspia 2 (2)
    115 Crested Tern S. bergii 10 (5)

    In the harbour:


    No seabirds observed.
    20 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Mammals:

    Pygmy Killer Whale Feresa attenuataca 15+
    Sort-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 20+
    Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 15+